Reducing the overwhelm for children with ASD – School-based strategies

Reducing the overwhelm for children with ASD – School-based strategies

Most children get irritable in the afternoon and less able to learn. For a child with Autism, the effects can happen earlier and with a lot greater intensity. Whilst the culmination of sensory and cognitive overload can’t always be avoided, there are some things which help a child manage the overwhelm.

  • At school, see if the teacher can establish a “quiet zone” or “chill out space” in the class room.

This area should ideally be away from noises and bright lights. In this area I recommend putting some cushions and perhaps a tent or canopy, and quiet activities which are not overly stimulating or challenging e.g. colouring, reading, listening to music, threading beads. This space can be used as a “sensory break” area or a retreat when upset. This space can be for everyone to use.

  • Provide frequent breaks

Whilst most children have breaks from learning during the standard 1st and 2nd breaks, children with Autism often need more breaks than is normally required.

  • Make a calming sensory box

Whilst it could seem counter-intuitive for an overstimulated child – a sensory box can offer sensations which have a calming affect e.g. soft/textured fabric, kinetic sand, squishies (the latest craze!). If a child is frequently on the go, seeking sensory input, then a sensory box may help to ground the child as they get their sensory needs met.

  • Provide alternative play options

playing aloneWhilst running in the yard may help many children to unwind, for some children with ASD the playground is challenging and a continuation of stimulation. These children may “unwind” better by going to library or playing in a quiet corner of the playground. This doesn’t have to be everyday or for every child with ASD (some definitely benefit from running off their energy!).

A side note about socialising

Many children with ASD will shy away from social interaction at lunch time. This is a way for them to have a sensory/mental rest. But there is benefit to the occasional pairing with a caring and socially intuitive peer to provide opportunities to develop social skills whilst also not adding to the overwhelm. But this will be a topic of another post… 🙂

Your Psych Centre can offer tailored recommendations for your child’s needs or liaise with their school to guide the implementations. Contact us for an appointment.

Stacey Hansen

Stacey Hansen is the Owner/Principal Psychologist of Your Psych Centre. She has a Bachelor of Psychology (1st Class Honours) and is currently studying a Master of Clinical Psychology. She has special interest in the area of Child and Adolescent psychology with experience in both Psychological Assessment and Intervention. She is also a mother to three children and understands the joy and challenges that parenting entails.